The Fragrant Lifestyle of Oman: Perfumery

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I spent 9 days exploring the Sultanate of Oman courtesy of Oman Tourism.

Many countries of the world don’t put such a high demand on items that alter the natural scent of the human body. Since I knew practically nothing about Oman before traveling there, I naively had the preconceived notion that it might be one of those places.

oman oasis

An oasis in hot Oman.

Only I learned on arrival from our group leader that the situation was exactly the opposite in Oman, and people there pride themselves on smelling of beautiful, rich fragrances. In fact, it’s an integral part of their culture that, straight from birth, the Omani people are adorned in unique aromas, such as rose oil, frankincense and sandalwood — fragrances that us Westerners might consider unusual. But it doesn’t stop there. The use of perfumery turns into a form of artistic self expression. Omani people learn the art of layering different scents according to seasons, occasions and mood; fragrances are applied to the person, hair, clothing and smoked into the air.

Men also take an active part in the process of smelling nice. In hopes of encountering random whiffs of appealing scents, those little tassels that hang off the front of the dishdasha are often dipped in a fragrance of something simple like rose oil, or something more luxurious, like the famed fragrances of Amouage.

Our press trip itinerary included a stop at the factory of Amouage, the Muscat home of the world’s most valuable perfume, or as the website states, “The gift of kings.” While a perfume factory tour might not sound like the most exciting activity…

I was absolutely, positively floored.

You see, I’ve been working on a side project that started with a simple idea at the beginning of the year. With a dream of creating a travel-focused product, I finally decided to tackle a solid perfume stick (called AROAMAS), and in order to do so, I had to find and choose pleasant fragrances.

So began the task. Prior to heading to Oman, I had my nose in dozens of different fragrance oils, making sure to pick apart, like a fine wine, the notes creating the top, middle and base of a scent. I read descriptions for designer perfumes and would devour the fragrance sections in the shopping malls to give my nose a further workout. It started to become apparent that the fragrances that really made me want to smell more were the complex ones with earthy elements.

Amouage

Amouage, the gift of kings.

Which brings us to Amouage.

Amouage is a luxury brand of perfume that draws its inspiration from the traditional smells of the Sultanate of Oman. Started in 1983, the main goal of this brand was to bring life to the frankincense industry, which acts as a key note in the fragrance line. Combined with bottle caps resembling a traditional Omani dagger handle, Amouage has produced a product that is also a cultural symbol.

With a luxury brand that claims to be, “The gift of kings,” and one that rich people from across the Middle East stock up on and then proceed to essentially bathe in, I expected nothing less than an entrance lined with a sparkly gold pool and reflective metal awning.

Amouage Entrance

The shiny and gold entrance to Amouage.

Reflection in the awning.

Reflection in the metal awning.

We were first brought into a room that let us learn about the complexities of Amouage fragrances, those of which were broken down into individual scents. A station full of ingredients allowed us to get a closer sniff at both the individual notes involved in the perfume process and how unique these Middle Eastern perfumes are compared to what I’m used to smelling back home.

scent station at Amouage

The scent ingredients that make up Amouage fragrances.

Although we were given but a taste of the scents (maybe a dozen or so sniffer jars), the Amouage line is actually concocted from 120 natural ingredients, with a large focus on the gifts from the East: frankincense and myrrh.

frankincense

Frankincense, the heart of Amouage.

frankincense resin

Frankincense.

After our introduction to the line and the idea behind it, we moved on to the factory portion of the tour. We were unable to photograph the workers themselves, but do believe that each and every perfume is bottled by hand. A note with the name of the individual worker that carefully finished the product is included with each package for a cute and personal touch.

where the magic happens

Where the magic happens.

fragrance oils

Fragrance oils… and reflections.

Finally, the actual product is presented, and at this point I’m engrossed in anticipation. The last room on the tour is laden with bottles of the Amouage line, both masculine and feminine scents, and we are given scent strips of each and every one to sample. After that, we are encouraged to wear the fragrances to see how they mesh with our personal chemistries and change over time. That’s the beauty of perfumery: It’s unique. It evolves. We wear fragrances differently depending on how they react with our own bodies and skin types. Scents change as top notes fade and middle and bottom notes stick. Some women actually wear the masculine version of the fragrances better because of these points.

The experience was one that stuck with me more than most given my recent obsession with perfumes, but also simply because I discovered some eclectic fragrances that, in my opinion, smell just as beautiful (if not more) than those traditional ones lining the shelves at the local mall in America or Australia and so on. If I could have afforded the over $100 price tag for a bottle, I would have invested in a luxury fragrance from Amouage (these prices get up to nearly $300 a bottle in Australia – yes, something I’d only own if gifted), but I am definitely lucky to have been sent home with several free samples.

amouage memoir

I’m a big fan of the Amouage MEMOIR fragrance.

They are a little piece of Oman, right here in Sydney.

Have you ever had the pleasure of smelling the perfumes of Amouage?

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About Brooke

Brooke is a passionate traveler who has a love for any country that ends in -stan, languages she'll never be able to speak, and cannoli. She is the creator of Aroamas travel perfume sticks and the female travel focused Her Packing List website. Follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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14 Responses to The Fragrant Lifestyle of Oman: Perfumery

  1. Amanda @ Adventure Year August 8, 2013 at 8:19 am #

    This is positively awesome! I’m not a huge fan of perfume because I can’t handle the flowery scents all day, but I really want to visit this place. That factory tour looked so great, and it’s so cool that it matched so well with your side project! Kudos to you. :)

    • Brooke August 11, 2013 at 12:04 am #

      Thanks Amanda! I also left out the part where they fed us dates and delicious Omani coffee at the end. Mmmmm, I miss that stuff. Cool factory tour, but I’m biased because it was the only one I’ve ever been on ;)

  2. Laryssa August 9, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    Fascinating! And congrats on the new business venture.

    I don’t think I really knew what Frankincense looked like before this either!

    • Brooke August 11, 2013 at 12:00 am #

      Haha before Oman I had no idea what it looked like either! It was a great tour – best (and only) perfume factory tour I’ve been on ;)

  3. Robyn August 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    I remember on my first trip to Europe while in high school we went on a tour of a perfume factory somewhere in Italy. That’s 100% what I though of when I started reading this article.

    • Brooke August 11, 2013 at 12:01 am #

      Robyn, do you remember what perfume factory it was?

      • Robyn August 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

        No idea, it would have likely been in either Rome or Florence, more likely Florence.

  4. Nicole August 10, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    How great! I’ve wanted to go to Oman for a while. It looks so pretty :)

    • Brooke August 11, 2013 at 12:00 am #

      Seriously beautiful destination. I hope you get to visit one day! :)

  5. Thomas | Jus Getaway August 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    One place I would definitely want to keep the wifey from. She might go crazy with those fragrances. I cant honestly remember if I know how frankincense smells or if I have ever smelt it. I was we had smell a vision. $300 a bottle is a lot of money.

    • Brooke August 18, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

      $300 is a lot of money for perfume! That’s why it’s so tempting to get it there… you can get it for like $120. ha

  6. Julie K. November 19, 2013 at 4:39 am #

    Perfume factory tours are always such a special experience! Perfumes will make me bankrupt one fine day!:) It´s just I´m in 7th heaven when I get compliments on my fragrance:) Reading your post I was immediately transferred back to Grasse, which was the best perfume related experience for me so far. The city itself is so quaint and picturesque. There are several perfume houses, but Fragonard was by far my most favorite. It´s impossible to leave that place empty handed!

  7. Uma April 28, 2014 at 1:16 am #

    Oman sounds more alluring with every post I read about it …!

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